Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was scheduled to meet Myanmar’s new president for the first time yesterday, anofficial said, in the latest sign the regime is reaching out to its opponents.
The Nobel laureate, who was freed from seven straight years of detention in November, was invited by the authorities to visit the capital Naypyidaw to join Myanmar President Thein Sein at an economic development workshop.
“They will meet today,” the government official said yesterday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In March, the junta handed power to a new nominally civilian government led by former general Thein Sein after nearly half a century of military rule.
Sources in the dissident’s National League for Democracy Party (NLD) confirmed that Aung San Suu Kyi had left her home in Yangon by car on her way to the capital on a journey arranged by the authorities.
The 66-year-old, who has spent much of the last two decades in detention, was released from house arrest shortly after a November election that was won by the military’s political proxies and marred by complaints of cheating.
The NLD, which won a 1990 vote, but was never allowed to take power by the junta, boycotted last year’s poll because of rules seemed designed to exclude Aung San Suu Kyi, and was stripped of its status as a political party as a result.
However, more recently there have been signs that the new government is softening its stance towards its critics, with Aung San Suu Kyi holding a second round of talks with Myanmar Labor Minister Aung Kyi on Friday last week.
On Sunday, Aung San Suu Kyi traveled unhindered to the Bago region on her first overtly political trip outside her home city since being released from detention, addressing thousands of supporters.
The new government warned in June that such a tour could spark chaos and riots, but the one-day excursion passed without incident.
The government has also called for peace talks with ethnic rebels and is allowing a UN rights envoy to visit Myanmar next week for the first time in more than a year.
Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, will meet -senior government figures, -including the -defense and foreign ministers, during his visit which begins tomorrow and continues through Thursday, a government official said.
Quintana last visited Myanmar in February last year, but was not allowed to see Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest at the time. His subsequent requests to return had been rejected until now.
The UN envoy has been a vocal critic of Myanmar’s rulers, enraging the junta after his last trip by suggesting that human rights violations may amount to crimes against humanity and could warrant a UN inquiry.
The international community has called for a number of reforms in Myanmar including the release of about 2,000 political prisoners.
In a further sign the new government is seeking to improve its international image, state newspapers this week dropped slogans lambasting foreign media such as the BBC for “killer broadcasts” and “sowing hatred.”
Myanmar’s generals moved their entire government from Yangon to the current remote jungle location in late 2005, after building the new administrative capital in secret over the previous three years.